Call an expert when considering moving plants
By Ellen Goff
We are a restless nation, always have been. For centuries, from the founding of the colonies to settling our vast frontiers, Americans have been defined by their mobility. In the 1990s, the U.S. Census reported that three-fourths of our citizenry moved once every five years on average, with one in six Americans changing residences each year.
People continue to have the itch to move and homeowners must decide what stuff stays and what goes with them. For gardeners, choosing among their landscape plants and trees is more problematic. If you want to move trees, shrubs and perennials planted in the landscape, you will likely have to negotiate that in the purchase agreement when selling the house.
In the Southeast, gardeners are lucky because the climate allows many plant lovers to grow shrubs and small trees in large pots or containers, giving them options when moving.
Patricia Smyth, owner of Essence of the Tree, an online nursery that ships Japanese maples nationwide, says clients' decisions on which trees to move is like choosing between favorite pets. "My favorite moving story involves a client who began collecting Japanese maples while living in a rented house," she says. "The container trees were nestled into the landscape with the containers becoming a sculptural aspect to the beautiful garden. During her search for a new home, she was able to distribute her container trees throughout her friends' gardens for safekeeping."
Woody plants such as boxwood, camellia and daphne or small trees like Japanese maple or citrus do well in containers and are worth moving for several compelling reasons: They can be expensive to repurchase, require many years to reach maturity and, with proper care, can live a very long time.
Moving landscape plants can set off an avalanche of questions, so it's best to consult a professional with experience, if possible. If not, make sure you find a mover who's willing to learn how to transport plants safely. "Moving plants is outside our normal wheelhouse," says Paul Regan, operations manager of highly rated Mark the Mover Inc., in Atlanta. "It depends on the size and type of plant to be moved."
"We're not arborists or horticulturalists, but I'd probably call one to do some research," Regan says. "After 31 years in the business, if there's something like this that I can do for a customer, I'm going to know everything about how to do it and be sure our team is knowledgeable as well."
Although he doesn't move trees, certified arborist Mark Russell recommends doing advanced planning if you want to grow trees in pots that can be moved. Russell, owner of highly rated 1800TreeExpert in Canton, Ga., advises that container culture, especially for trees, needs to be managed with care and periodic root pruning so that their roots don't become wrapped and constricted in the container. These are the same techniques used in the art of bonsai, where trees and shrubs are snipped, wired and trained to create miniature forms of their species.
"You need to think about the size of the tree," Russell says. "Some Japanese maples get to be 18 feet. This isn't a good option for tall trees, so pick a dwarf variety or one that will remain under 6 feet at maturity."
Goff is a freelance horticulture writer and photographer. She's passionate about plants, water quality and protecting the environment. Aside from working with words and pictures, she stays busy with her home landscape and its inhabitants along the shores of Lake Wylie, S.C.